HomePandemicPandemic 2020 #6 – Understanding Why Masks and Social Distancing Works

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Pandemic 2020 #6 – Understanding Why Masks and Social Distancing Works — 4 Comments

  1. Modeling is not science until you calibrate the model with empirical data from real studies of humans and how the disease spreads. All modeling results are couched in terms of “may” or “could” reduce because they honestly do not know for sure.

    I think viruses are similar to other contaminants where you have toxicity and exposure, exposure being frequency and duration. 0.8% of the US population seems to have it. Those that are sick are home or in a hospital (that’s the 0.8%). Those that are asymptomatic or will be symptomatic but have not yet presented symptoms and are out spreading the disease are likely a small percentage of the population as well. That gets back to exposure. How many people that have the virus but don’t show it are out coughing, sneezing, or spitting when they talk within my 6 foot bubble. Not many.

    I wear a cloth mask because the state requires me to when in public indoors. I don’t think it helps nearly as much as social distancing and hand washing and it may even hurt as it gives a false sense of protection and donning/doffing and keeping the mask clean are definite chances to increase your exposure. I don’t think the masks can hurt but too many people are sloppy with the use of PPE to have it be very effective.

    Thanks for listening and Happy Independence Day!

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  3. One of the interesting mask issues that doesn’t get discussed much is how well (or how poorly) the different types of masks work. According to the specs that I’ve read, nearly every N95 mask stops particles larger than 3 microns in size, yet every article I’ve read that lists the average particle size of the Covid-19 virus to be much, much smaller than 3 microns (.15 microns on average).

    I’m not trying to be a wise guy, but if N95 masks only stop particles of 3 microns in size or larger (and cheaper masks don’t work nearly as well as N95 masks), that would seem to indicate that homemade masks are worthless and the more expensive N95 masks aren’t nearly as effective in stopping the virus as many would like us to believe, which might help to explain why the CDC first told everyone wearing masks was pointless, yet a month later reversed their advice.

    As an example, if a .15 micron particle is represented as a golf ball and the 3 micron blockage size of an N95 mask is represented as a basketball, how do thousands of basketball sized holes in your N95 mask stop a golf ball from entering (or exiting) your mask?

    Another article from a doctor I read suggested that if you can smell the Glade air scent your spouse uses in the bathroom (while wearing your mask) that your mask was useless in stopping Covid-19, as the Glade particles are also smaller in size than 3 microns. Just curious.

    • I had the same reaction, initially, when I researched masks years ago. Turns out there are two reasons these N95 masks can filter out viruses. One, viruses are rarely ever floating around on their own. They are almost always attached to something (bacteria, moisture droplets, particulates, etc.). Second, part of the filtration media uses electrostatic attraction to capture and hold particles, including viruses.

      You can use some smells to determine if your mask is working properly, but it can be tricky to do so. As noted above, it’s not about the pore size in the filter media, so you can’t go on particle size alone.

      There are two isolation protocols used: One is ‘isolation’ and the other is ‘reverse isolation’. Isolation is when you protect someone from your germs; for example, a burn patient or someone with a compromised immune system. Reserve isolation is when you protect you from the other person. N95/N100 masks provide reverse isolation. Cloth masks provide isolation. Studies have shown that masks, such as cloth or surgical masks, significantly reduce the amount of mouth and nose droplets ejected into the air from a person’s breath, coughs, and sneezes, and this reduction – along with a six foot distance – dramatically reduces the infection rates. Thus, if everyone were to follow the extremely simple guidelines of hand washing, wearing a mask, and keeping a distance, we’d be able to manage this pandemic and keep the economy afloat much better than we are now.

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